I’d like to introduce you to the thirty-seventh interviewee in my ‘Meet the Author’ series. She is Deborah MacGillivray.
Hi, Deborah! Welcome to Susan Finlay Writes blog site. Can you tell us a bit about your background as a writer? How long have you been writing? Did you have a mentor?
How long have I been writing? I had a poem about my dog Mitzi published in the school paper when I was 5 years old. I think the writing bug bit… lol. I was heavily influenced by my grandfather, who imbued me with his love of history. He gave me knights on chargers instead of dolls and told me tales of Good Sir James Douglas, William Wallace and Robbie Bruce instead of faerytales. Seeds were planted. At seventeen I read a suspense novel and suddenly the seeds rooted and began to grow. He also gave me my first typewriter.
However, the serious stuff didn’t start until I was doing research for my grandfather and came across a story about a knight and a lady, written by a long ago ancestor. I saw it as the basis for a historical romance and began working on it. I developed heart problems, due to a blood condition, so writing had to take backseat. I was at a low ebb and figuring there was simply no way to make it in publishing when Lynsay Sands joined my writers group. I became friends, but didn’t tell her I was writing. Lynsay was just becoming a name in romance, and I didn’t want her to think I just being friends because of that. After a year I finally admitted to her that I was writing. She read some of my work and enouraged me to go after my dream. However, she thought I would do better with the contemporary paranormal series, and suggested I go to editors with those books.
Along the way, I also made friends with bestselling author, Maggie Davis (who often writes as Katherine Deauxville). I am not sure I would call either woman a mentor, but I cannot discount the value of their enouragement and sage advice, which enabled me to finally focus my works to make them more commercial. A special thanks to Miss Maggie for teaching me the “Less is More” rule. Both are very special ladies and I am honored they took interest in my journy.
You write contemporary romance, historical romance, and paranormal romance. Which is your favorite subgenre?
Hard to say, in truth. When I am writing historicals, at the back of my mind I am already working on the next paranormal. When I am writing the paranormals, I am hungry to get back to the historicals. The grass is always greener syndrome, I supposed. I know there is a big push to “brand” an author. I worry if that isn’t putting an author in a pigeon hole that could hurt them down the road. To my way of looking at it, the brand is the author. Give your reader good books and they will follow into any story. Why I never set out to be just a “historical author” or “paranormal author”. I wanted to be a “romance author”. I have stories that form in my heart and I want to write them, no matter the genre. Plus, I think writing the two different series keeps me loving writing them both, keeps me fresh.
Can you tell us a bit about your books? How many novels have you written? Do you have a favorite? Are you working on a book now?
I have written about a dozen. Six are published. I also have a collection of cat romances, Cat O’Nine Tales and several other novellas.
Three historicals are out, A Restless Knight, In Her Bed, and One Snowy Knight. Fourth in the Dragons of Challon™ series, Redemption will be coming in the near future. It was to be out already, but my home burned to the ground. The manuscript was lost in the fire, so I had to rewrite it. I was in no condition after the fire, so it’s been delayed.
Three paranormal romances – The Sisters of Colford Hall™ series – were with Dorchester Publishing. They went out of business in 2012. Last fall, the series was purchased by Montlake/Amazon Publishing. It’s a unique series, as there is no true order. All three books are “happening” in the same time frame. I know so many people pick up book three in the series and have trouble finding early books, or are upset at reading them out of order. I designed the series so the three novels could be read in any order. At the time the notion seemed brilliant. LOL. I had written two, the third I only have roughed out, so I quickly learnt that you have to really pay attention that the stories were “fitting” to the time frame of the other. When someone places a call on Thursday in one book, it needs to be reflected in the other two. Pesky details, but you have to keep on top of that. Montlake has all three books out in Kindle e-book currently, but will be putting them back into print this summer.
A fourth book in the series, To Bell the Vampire, will be coming.
Your books have been published by numerous publishers. Can you tell us about your experiences with different publishers?
I was fortunate to land on the desk of the wonderful editor Hilary Sares, who bought my historicals. After so many people gave advice to not push the historicals because editors were not buying them, it turned out I sold them first. Hilary received my packet on her desk first thing on a Monday morning and within two hours she was calling with an offer. It was the day Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, and it was pouring rain here. She bought the first two books in the series, and then bought two more on a second contract in 2008. Due to the fire, I had to step away from Kensington. I was dealing with too many things resulting from the fire. I loved working with Hilary. She was smart, savvy, funny and caring. I could not ask for a better editor. It hurt me when they let her go.
I wanted to sell off the bat with both series, and my wish came true. Three weeks after the historicals sold, Chris Keeslar bought the Sisters series. I felt I “knew” Chris (second hand…LOL) because he had been Maggie’s and Lynsay’s editor. He also bought my friend, Dawn Thompson, just the year before. Chris was different than Hilary. Even so, I appreciated him. He always allowed me the room do write what I wanted. He really “got” the Sisters. We laughed, butted heads, and I am sure he might have wanted to tie me up and gag me a time or two, but I respected him, and I believe he respected my craft and afforded me the space I needed to produce. I think I scared him on my last book with him. One thing about writing for two publishers, you have two deadlines. I lost my computer to a freak early thunderstorm. Fried the poor thing. I had to redo both a book for Hilary and one for Chris. I was down with pneumonia so it wasn’t easy. I had to write about 70% of A Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing in nine days! He didn’t think I could do it, but I did, and he loved the story.
I know everyone has probably heard bad things about Dorchester and their final days. Sadly, much of it is true. However, Chris Keesler… well, I appreciated him giving me the chance to get the Sisters out there, to opening the door to doing my books my way. I don’t think any editor out there allowed their authors to really explore stories that other publishers wouldn’t have permitted due to “sales” standards.
I am now with Montlake/Amazon Publishing, and while still early in the two year contract I cannot sing their praises enough. They really get behind their authors, and make the whole process an open door. They are bringing new life to a stagnant publishing platform and it’s exciting to be a part of their process.
You also write short stories and novellas. Can you tell us about some of those?
I did a dozen short stories and novellas for Highland Press Publishing. I love getting involved with my characters, and it’s hard for me to contain my love by counting words. However, I was part of a group anthology for breast cancer, so I felt I could “try” and do a short story. I found I actually love it. It’s cutting to the bone to get the story, and it sharpens your writer’s awareness of what is important and what isn’t. Maggie’s Less is More rule really came into play there.
I hope to put out another Cat O’Nine Tales. If you will notice, all the shorts and novellas (as well as the Sisters) always have a central character of a cat. Cats are amazing devices for readers. You can use the pet to show the readers things about a character. Such as Des in The Invasion of Falgannon Isle. He comes to Falgannon, a bitter hard man; he’s out for vengeance and doesn’t care who gets hurt in the process. It would be very easy for a reader to be put off by his actions, his own self-image. However, the island cat, The Cat Dudley, instantly welcomes Des. This cat who hates all the males on the island, but instantly LOVES Desmond. The readers will see the interaction between the cat and Des and understand there is more to Des than even Des knows about himself.
I enjoy the novellas, so I am sure I will get back to writing more of them soon. At the time they were published, there were few options for publishing short stories. Now, Montlake loves these “quick” readers. Exciting changes happening in publishing across the board.
You’ve won numerous awards for you writing—too many to list here. Can you tell us more? Do you have any special stories you’d like to share?
I have won a lot of awards, so won’t bore your readers with a listing. One I can pointe out that I am quite proud of was for Riding the Thunder. While it was a book under Chris Keeslar, I had problems with production making a lot of errors in the first book, so I took the unprecidented step of insisting they go to press without copy edits or editor’s polish. Surprising, Dorchester went with my wishes. I signed a paper that I wanted this and we went ahead. Chris gave me his shopping list, and I had changed a few things. He was very good at spotting points that would strengthen a romance. But the final edits and galley was on my head. It won Best Contemporary Romance 2007 for Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. The judges in the contest are not readers or writers, but booksellers. That they picked Riding the Thunder when the final work was all mine was just an amazing validation to me.
You are a reviewer for Paranormal Romance. Where can we find your reviews? What do you like about writing book reviews?
I used to review for several review sites, The Best Reviews, Sensual Romance Reviews, and Rambles, but I don’t review very much anymore. Just not enough time. I do stay with Paranormal Romance Reviews because they are such a great group. http://www.paranormalromance.org/ I have been with them over a decade, and I run their chat/promotion loop on Yahoo.com called The Haunt at PNR. They review everything, not just paranormals, but they focus on paranormals, really love them. I have always respected their strength in publishing good reviews and running their Paranormal Award, The Pearl. It takes a lot of good people to run a review site, even more to run one for over a decade. Dee Gentle, Cy Korte, Sara Reyes, Barbara Sheridan and Leslie Tramposch are wonderful people, dedicated people. I cannot say enough about them and how they run PNR.
You design book covers at Purple Rain Designs. How did you get involved with that? Can you tell us more? Can you show us some samples?
My cover designs stemmed from teaching graphic designs in the MSN Groups. I used to run a site with Monika Wolmarans and Carol Ann Applegate. We brached out to do web page design and graphics for others. The web changed, MSN Groups died, so we coasted at Purple Rain Designs, just taking a few jobs that intrigues us. Monika and I still do book covers. It’s a love and I guess we hate to let go of it. Like reviewing, I don’t do too many covers these days.
I have been a cover lover for a long time, and was blessed by the covers I received. I always do a cover as if it were for one of my own books. Monika and I did a lot for Highland Press Publishing. One of my favourites I did was for Gerri Bowen. I originally was creating the cover for Dawn Thompson, a dear friend, for her The Countfeit Lady. But she died before it was used. Dorchester eventually went with their inhouse artist. I let Gerri have it since I have always loved her writing. I have also done some super covers for Dawn Thompson, Cynthia Breeding, Jacquie Rogers and a few others. Currently, I am working on one for a paranormal suspense anthology called Nefarious North.
You can see my work on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scotladywriter/bookcovers-i-created-for-other-authors/
What is your favorite or least favorite part of writing?
The answer to that depends upon what day you ask. LOL. I love that fire of creation, when you can write three chapters in one night because you are jazzed with a new story. Only what is special to me — I love how the stories take control away from me. I create the characters, drop them down in a place and give them a reason for being there, then suddenly they are off and running. They come alive and tell me the story. When that “pinch of this, a dram of that” turning into the magic and the characters take their first breath, it’s amazing. It’s alchemy!
Do you have a writing routine, a special place where you go to do your writing, or a certain time of day? Do you listen to music while you write, and if so, what kind of music?
It varies. I often use music to set my mood for a scene. It helps me focus. But I don’t usually have it on. Music has it’s own magic. Compelling magic. Music with words pulls me into the lyrics. It can make you want to dance or cry. So it’s a magnificient tool for authors. As a rule, I need noise to write. While music can help, can interfere, too. So I find I use “white noise” – television. I cannot have something I haven’t seen before on while I write. That will distract me. Movies or series that I have seen repeatedly, I can have them on. It’s a comforting, boring, non-demanding noise that doesn’t intrude. My mind tunes them out completely, yet they kill the silence. I have ringing in my ears so silence drives me nuts. I need a fan or my television. Dawn Thompson once confessed she wrote in the same way. She had to have the television on. We laughed over that.
One thing I will use is tracks that are nothing but noises of nature: thunderstorms, ice storms, surf, waterfalls. They are amazing tools to conjure a scene.
In the Sisters series, music plays a big part of the stories. Each of those books has a “sound track” of songs that floats the stories. In Riding the Thunder one of the “characters” was a 1960s Wurlitzer that was haunted and only played songs from that period. This love of old songs is even more apparent in A Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing. I came up with the story while listening to the old song by Sam the Sham –Little Red Riding Hood.
As to where I create — I don’t sit at a desk too long. I generally use that for plotting and research. I write in a chair in my study, using my laptop. I cannot use PC – gives me tendonitis of my wrist, elbow and neck. However, if I sit with my laptop and use the arm of the chair to prop my elbows, I don’t have any of those problems. I often write in bed. I wake up with ideas and need to get them down before they fade to mist.
In summer, I sit on the veranda in a glider and write. I love being outside. I am hoping next year to add a gazebo and an all season room to my home. I love plants and being in the open, so envision me sitting in them in the future, writing more novels.
I write anytime. During the morning, evening or at night. I have often been known to write 13-18 hours a day when on a deadline. I cannot keep that pace since the fire. I am hoping to get that mojo back. I love writing in the wee hours from midnight to six a.m. There is something magic about that time. My brain is more alive. I produce more writing during that period than in a full day of pounding away.
What books or authors have influenced your writing?
Maggie Davis writing as Katherine Deauxville, penned a book called The Crystal Heart. It showed me stories could be constructed outside of the normal romance box. Anything by Lynsay Sands. Amazing talent. I don’t think she’s human (kidding, because she is a wonderfully caring person) – they just plug her in and she writes at an amazing pace, book after book. She made me look at adding humor to the Sisters. I never considered that, but with her insistance, I tried and found and loved humor in romance. Again, I cannot thank her enough.
Another book I loved that made me want to write was Elizabeth Lowell’s Tell Me No Lies. Author Melanie Jackson (another great original talent) voiced the same thing about the book. Electrifying story and outside the box.
And then there is the Resident Genius of Romance and Bad Boys, Anne Stuart. Wow! I want to be Anne Stuart when I grow up!! She does such wicked anti-heroes. I think she loves a challenge and says she is going to give us a Gamma Rogue that we cannot love… and then MAKES us love him anyway. Some of her “heroes” are just not a hero by the normal standards – a mad monk, a cat burglar, a court jester, ex-cons, con men, killers, assassins, an invisible man, a puppeteer…on and on. She does it, brilliantly, time and a again. There is simply no one like her. I wanted to write like her, but NO ONE can do what she does.
If you could meet any book character, who would it be, and what would you do with them?
Mine or other authors? If you are asking mine, I would have touble saying. I tend to fall in love with all my heroes. I love Challon because he was the first to get in print and I lived with him for so long. But Damian stole my heart. And Des…so wounded, so arrogant, so needing love. Still, the twins, Jago and Trevlyn were heartstealers, too.
If it is a character from someone else, I don’t hesitate – James from Moonrise by Anne Stuart. James moved into my heart and years and years later refused to leave!
What would I do with him, I would pick his brain for what makes him tick, how Anne Stuart does her Voodoo Magic like no other author does!! Maybe he would reveal her secret!
Please list any websites or social media links for yourself or your book. Thanks!
Website – http://deborahmacgillivray.co.uk
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/Scotladywriter?ref=tn_tnmn
Twitter – http://twitter.com/Scotladywriter
Linkedin – http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=49058584&trk=tab_pro
Blogger – http://deborahmacgillivray.blogspot.com/
Thank you, Susan, for such wonderful questions. You really take the time to address who you are speaking to, and gave me a wonderful a platform to address things I care about in my writing!
Currently, Montlake is offering a special for readers this month on my Sisters of Colford Hall™ series. A Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing is 99 cents― featured as Top 100 pick for Kindle readers. Also, Riding the Thunder and The Invasion of Falgannon Isle are half off during May. http://tinyurl.com/cgmhzjn